Rather than ripping and replacing core billing systems, which are integrated across the company in today’s digital world, operators should consider wrapping BSS.
November 13, 2018
For obvious reasons, billing has always been at the heart of telco operations. The business support system (BSS) layer is central to revenue generation, and network and service changes don’t get implemented until billing is ready. From a billing perspective, network upgrades used to mean a new source for billing data but the data didn’t change, services didn’t change and customers didn’t change. Yet as operators implement network virtualization, offer cloud-based services and upgrade to 5G, so much more than the source of billing data is changing. As network virtualization expands its reach, it changes the variety and dynamics of services being offered. This has a profound effect on billing and revenue management.
Consider today’s typical user consumption. Users now connect to the network with an assortment of physical (usually smart) and virtual (typically dumb) devices and access content from a wide variety of providers often while changing locations. Streaming video requires a lot of capacity, while IoT telemetry may not. As such, operators need to bill for it based on dynamic pricing models and charging plans that are often unique to each customer. Regardless of service type, it must be supported by the BSS layer, that large, complex, mysterious and traditionally untouchable technology layer. No operator wants to risk disrupting a foundational system that has been integrated in so many ways to so many data sources and systems because any change could be catastrophic.
So how do operators implement BSS to support new networks and services without disrupting existing revenue streams or undertaking expensive and lengthy projects to modify existing billing solutions? They need to “wrap it up.” In other words, they need to create a strategy that positions legacy systems for usage based on a specific timeline that maximizes value but doesn’t overstretch the lifespan. Whether new billing functions are available as a cloud service or an entirely new application, the trick is to integrate new functionality with existing billing systems and data sources. Wrapping new functionality around existing systems enables operators to add capabilities without negatively impacting billing and without the time and expenses associated with a system-wide upgrade.
But there’s more to it than that. Wrapping legacy billing systems should be part of a larger strategy to transform billing processes to eliminate redundancy, reduce risk and ensure ongoing operations.
1. Have a Plan
BSS upgrades and changes required to support new network and service offerings will be implemented over time and require a comprehensive plan and schedule. The project will require participation and long-term commitment from network, IT, service and business management.
2. Integrate in Every Direction
In addition to plugging into existing billing systems, new functionality needs to be integrated with existing CRM, support and management systems. As processes evolve across the business, automation and intelligent workflows can work seamlessly with billing via the wrap-around solution, rather than requiring expensive and exclusive integration with legacy solutions.
3. Don’t Forget the Data
Data that used to be exclusively used by billing is now in demand across the business. Common interfaces to access new and existing data sources can be implemented into and out of wrap-around solutions without disrupting ongoing billing operations. Consolidating customer data and managing access via common interfaces makes it easier to modify and automate workflows.
4. Quarantine and Phase Out Redundant Billing Systems
Customers, services and networks should be migrated to wrap-around solutions as new functionality is implemented, allowing legacy systems to be retired. At a minimum, new customers and services should be added to the wrap-around solutions rather than legacy billing systems.
5. Test, Test and Test Again
Automated testing and analytics can identify both data and revenue leakage so that holes can be plugged quickly before revenue is affected or customers are compromised.
Implementing an effective wrap-around strategy either on-site or using cloud services is daunting. Clearly, the risks of issues along the way remain high, yet a well-planned approach to integration means that core BSS is augmented rather than replaced or modified. This protects existing revenue streams while paving the way for meaningful upgrades in the new virtual world.